Thursday, August 30, 2018

Modes of Conveyance

To boogie from one place to another on this large plantation usually calls for leaving a carbon footprint.  It can be the fastest way to go, but is it the best?  Adding a mere minutes to my time between places, I've been opting to forgo the car, truck, utility vehicles since Flynn has returned... when time permits. Besides, he's taken over my nutzo hours and logged 87 hours in one week.  I'm finally breathing a sigh of relief and feeling human again.
 I've relished playing with my food again!
quail eggs

trying to mimic Todd's sandwich wreath...trying

Simple pleasures. Sometimes not so simple... a few days ago I made from scratch gelatin and flavored it with fresh squeezed lemons, then I picked lavender buds from my garden and made frosting out of them.  Now that was fun and weird!  
Maybe that's why I've been attempting to run, bike and swim more this week-- I'm eating like a hog!
Every day Dax and I have been swimming after our morning runs or after work, or both! I'd been scared of being chased by a water moccasin, nipped by a snapping turtle or cruised by an alligator, but logic finally (after 2 years) prevailed and I realized I have worse problems on my hands than an irritated snake.

Party on Garth.

Leaving work Wednesday night at dusk, I was worried Dax and I wouldn't make it the two miles back home with enough light.
I'd forgotten I was tethered to Flash Gordon.  Dax is pure speed, he galloped all out the entire way--- of his own accord. I was laying heavy on the brakes through the deep sand, to no benefit.

White knuckle delirious fun!
This Thursday afternoon, Flynn began what will be a couple days project bush hogging at the furthest end of the property.  Driving the cumbersome batwing unit back to the barn at night is very time consuming.  To keep Flynn from calling his taxi while I was busy feeding or administering Cody's inhalants, I left Flynn with a utility vehicle and I rode my bike back.
I believe in performing one good deed a day, bare minimum...
When I drove past this sight, I had to stop.

I couldn't tell what it was at first. But it looked all wrong.  I took a picture of it and zoomed in on my phone to make out it was a turtle hung up in a tree stump.  It must've tried to jump off its log, became wedged and a quarter of it was underwater, was it the head or the tail?  I splashed in the water and slung mud at it, no movement.  Surely dead. I didn't want to wet my sneakers and I wasn't about to wade out in all the mussel shells I could see in the mud.  I went to leave, then decided I simply couldn't chance it was still alive.  Without a saw, I spotted a slender dead tree in the woods and spent 10 minutes bending, twisting and whittling away at the ornery tree--- until I had my poking stick.

"Hello, anybody home?" 
Legs moved and a head popped out.  Forgetting all about sneakers, I rushed into the lake up to my shorts and wiggled and pried until she was freed.

That made both our days complete.

I believe that if you project and dole out positive energy, it finds you again and makes you richer. 
I'd left the dogs at home after lunch and Dax decided four hours was beyond his tolerance range.  He frequently does so by taking it out on pillow cases.  Instead of scolding him, as it was too late, I channeled his energy by having him pull me and Peter back to the barn for evening work.
older pic from another adventure

After work, with only a sliver of daylight left, we all ran down from the barn to the lake.  Peter and Garrett just watched from the dock as Dax and I swam laps around the lake.
As Dax couldn't be coaxed back out of the water, I pretended to walk off without him.  It worked, for a moment.  He passed me and kept on going, a white flash over the hill and away.  I pulled Peter home back in his wagon without assistance and marveled at how a 55 lb dog could pull roughly 240 lbs!  I was struggling!
Back at home, I did get my darn car and started driving all over the place looking for an idiot dog.  So much for keeping to a light carbon footprint. This should be how I conduct my next search party rescue:

I'd made a second pass by the barn when out of the dusk, a vision appeared and made my crying eyes dry instantly.  Dax almost broadsided me, or I almost ran him over, happened too fast, but when I'd screeched to a halt and flung my door open to look for a carcass, his head clobbered my nose as he leapt over me into his copilot seat.
Now that's how kharma works.  You help a turtle, then you find your dog unscathed, you may lose a pillow case along the way, but Kharma never said she was perfect.

It's Not What You Know, It's Who You Know

Horses are said to only have two thoughts running through their heads: suicide or homicide.
No matter what contingency plans you make, they break them.  
Jack came home from his  sojourn at the vet school with a clean bill of health.  Goodbye colic.  Didn't stop him from finding more trouble.

Genius found a freshly painted replacement fence board.  One in a thousand... that's luck.

This is not what luck looks like.  This was Cody's eye shortly after Jack came back home.
Cody is special.  You know the term "nerves of steel"?  Well, he's the opposite.  He's one of my favorite riding horses, but you have to be prepared for him to freak out at butterflies, gum wrappers, leaves falling, squirrels chattering... the list goes on.  Let's just say you shouldn't attempt to fiddle with your cell phone whilst on his back. That said, he's also prone to throwing his head in the air when startled.  He's hit his head so hard that the ensuing bruise left a calcinosis on his poll!! And now he's bashed his own face and eye against a hard surface.  Genius #2.

Our ever patient Dr. Brown referred us to the vet school. My equine ambulance has been logging some miles lately.

Once again all the trucks in the client parking at the vet school are at least 15 years newer than mine and my trailer predates theirs by 50 years... and yet I gloat about my rig.  See how much taller and wider mine is to the others?  That's called not packing your horses like sardines into flimsy tin cans.

My trusty copilot and I make tracks for Auburn.  

Cody is sedated for a long opthalmic exam.
Drugs are good

My own horse, Axel, has been followed by the excellent team of Dr. Mcmullen and his interns for months since Axel's eye surgery. Cody receives the same 5 star treatment.  I'm told his eye injury is healing as fast as can be expected, everything on track for a successful resolution... so I have the brilliant idea to ask the internist (fellow Canadian, BTW) if they can further evaluate Cody's asthma and COPD.  

Me and my big mouth.

Half a day later....

... I am consulted by three different internists who plot a different plan of attack, diverging from our current twice a day administration of meds.

As Cody had also had an impressive asthma attack immediately after scaring us with the bashed eyeball, it became apparent that his condition had worsened beyond the scope of what his current drug regiment could suppress.  My suspicion was that the rainiest Summer in eons has spawned too many mold spores for him to handle.  After a tracheal lavage and various blood tests, the vets agreed with me.  Mold.  That's what I'd been saying for $1000 cheaper!!!
Onto a new treatment protocol that involves inhalants.

Two different inhalants twice a day.  Not just one puff apiece either, try 32 puffs per day, spaces 30 seconds apart.  This is where having established a bond of trust with a horse becomes crucial.
After almost a week at the vet school in an air conditioned isolation stall, Cody is released... after I'm given a tutorial on how to administer inhalants.
In preparation for his return, Flynn and I have feverishly cleaned everything in the barn.
Hay loft, vacuumed.
His new isolation pasture, clipped low to expose mold spores to UV light.
His stall cleaned and lined with non allergenic shavings.

Yes, we've paid $15 a bag for chipped cardboard.  Recycling at its finest!!!
Dax and I fetch our boy, Cody.

All this work sure does tire a puppy out.

Not to mention his morning runs and swimming.

And don't try to pull him out of the water before he's done either, he'll pull you in with him.

His obedience is stellar, not.
But I stray off topic. Back to Cody, who had settled in to his old stall.  New program included keeping him in his stall all day while the mold spores are at their worst and releasing him to graze only at night.
Two problems arose:  he wasn't nearly as cooperative with the inhalants as he had been at the vet school and he started coughing again. His stall location in the barn wasn't the best.
Flynn and I spent all of last weekend reconfiguring stall arrangements to better suit monsieur Cody.
We moved him to a stall directly under the misting fan to keep dust abated. Involving removing the rubber mats from that stall in order to bleach the wooden floor below to kill allergens.

New hypoallergenic shavings installed.

Corral panels dragged around by two tired old people and by Sunday night Cody had his own access to a small evening pasture (that he shares with his BFF Oreo).

As for the contraption that he now hated being applied to his nostril, I devised a new tool.

I cut some webbing in a grazing muzzle and affixed the device in it. Where would I be without Duck Tape!?!

It works so well that the vet school asked permission to copy my design.  My chief goal in life is to alleviate animal suffering and promote animal husbandry.  YES!!! This is a big moment for me. Plus, it will keep Flynn and I from getting stomped by an impatient horse!

Small things can make such a huge difference.
Here's the part where all this comes together: while talking to the optho team, I asked if the procedure they want to try on me is used in animals.  The answer is yes, but by the time it's performed, eyesight is so poor that the results are also poor.  I was told that having had multiple RK surgeries, corneal ablation surgery and last year's lens replacement and repair work, it's no wonder my corneas are failing.  Plus, just like my horse Axel with uveitis, I never wore sunglasses.  UV light breaks down the collagen holding the surface of your eye intact.  The vet sternly advised not waiting until the end of September to even be seen by my old eye surgeon, he said to go to the experts at Emory University in Atlanta who perfected cross linking. To make a convoluted story short, thanks to my horse's vet, I landed an appointment with the big cheese at Emory this Friday.
As my Dad has always told me, "It's not what you know, it's who you know".  On top of my all time favorite Scotty-ism "the harder I work, the luckier I become".

Friday, August 17, 2018

Get Out of My Way, Jamie Train Coming Through

I haven't been responding to calls, texts or emails the past two day.  Not because I've been wallowing in self pity, but because I've been busy.  

Cooking.  The dishwasher has been running non stop for two days while I was busy being creative in my kitchen.  Best way to stave off negative thoughts is to create and spread joy... especially if it comes in the form of cakes.  I brought a cake to a friend in town, made one for Flynn's birthday and invited my coworkers (Flynn, Deli and Heather) to my house for Tunisian chicken lunch.  How can you be sad with so many smiling faces surrounding you?

All the recipes but one come from my friend Helene in Birmingham.  Another way to bring friendship into my kitchen even if she can't be here in person.  Love you, Helene!
And I've had time to be grateful.  Grateful Flynn came back 2 weeks earlier than his doctor wanted, permitting me to get diagnosed sooner.  Grateful this diagnosis came before I was going to plunge into a new retirement investment, allowing me to reposition myself financially so that this blow won't wipe me out completely. 
Plus, there is now a plan, otherwise  I am lost without my lists and agendas.  September 21, I return to Montgomery to begin series of tests to first address the retina problem and scar tissue on my lens.  From there, my surgeon said he will find a clinic in the Southeast that has experience performing the corneal cross linking.  Looks like I'd better hurry up and get my Scotty camper rebuilt, looks like I may be getting to travel this Fall after all!  Always think positive and note to self: find a chauffeur!
Life isn't fair, but it's still the best game in town, how I love life with all its complexities and struggles.
Plus, I have an angel looking out for me now.  I try to honor my Cole every day by being stronger than I believe myself to be.  He continues to be the greatest gift to my life.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018


I'm more and more like my old one ton dually every year. 

She's a workhorse, but she's getting more and more expensive to maintain. Even if I could afford a new F350, I doubt I'd trade Boss (that's her name) in.  We've crisscrossed this country several times, she's pulled me through some hard times. I am bound to her.
My body on the other hand, I'd take a newer model any day.  Black, white, purple with pink spots, I wouldn't care what was between my legs either, as long as I could keep what's between my ears and in my heart. This sleeve is worn slap out and I'm tired of fighting to keep it from falling to pieces.  
After the knee surgery, hysterectomy and eye surgery, I looked at the pain and cumulative total of 2016 & 2017's medical out of pocket costs of $31,000 as in the past and that smooth sailing was ahead.  
Surgically induced menopause hit me hard the turn of this year and I finally quit trying to self medicate with black cohosh and red clover supplements, opting to seek the advice of a reproductive endocrinologist.  Instead of being prescribed a random cocktail of drugs and monitored every 6 months, I went to someone who took my genetic predisposition to cancer seriously and tailored a regiment to help me get over the intense mental fog that has plagued me for months due to my lack of normal hormone production.
He's put me on testosterone!

...and estrogen.  The doses are so low that I shouldn't be ripping out of my shirts like the Hulk (oh darn), nor be shot with a tranquilizer dart and dragged back off to the gorilla exhibit at the zoo.  
This doctor is affiliated to my Blue Cross insurance, but my plan is the poor peasant Bronze plan and it won't allow me to see him.  My option is to get sub par health care from a general practitioner or fork over what I figure will be $1500 this year to be properly monitored and avoid costlier problems down the road.
To injury, there is always insult.  My eyesight in both eyes has been tanking the past few years.  I see a specialist in Montgomery and I have faith that he has been doing his very best to find solutions, up to the point that I had custom contacts made two months ago... they didn't work either.
My mother asked me so many questions today that I feel like a slide show is in order to explain what's happened.
A normal eye with a clear lens and intact zonules

Normal cornea atop eyeball

I have received a few too many blows to the head in my life and my zonules (muscle tie down straps) were ripped and my lens had a cataract on it from a puncture wound to the eye I'd had years ago.
Cataract and torn zonules
They set a new artificial lens and hoped the zonules would hold it.
New lens
Unfortunately it appears the zonules aren't holding and my lens is wobbling causing damage inside the eye.  Resulting in scar tissue formed over the back half of my new lens and possibly being responsible for the retina damage now there.  That's why sometimes I can see somewhat clearly and other times when the lens has shifted, I see nothing but a black curtain, the scar tissue is that dense.
But, there's more.  I've been diagnosed with progressive keratoconus, the corneas of both my eyes are so thin that they ripple and bulge. 
Am I an artist, or what?

 I had seen ripples of wrinkled white of my eye in the mirror one day and that's exactly what was happening.  No wonder any kind of contact lens or glasses can fix it:  my eyes fluctuate constantly.
I'm currently using +3.50 readers and they're not strong enough some times.  I've been handed the bad news this afternoon that I'm headed towards losing my vision, not in ten years, but much, much sooner.  
The current FDA approved remedy is corneal transplant.  Not an option I can afford or maintain in my current lifestyle afterwards.  They don't select you as a transplant candidate if you ride horses or have a very active lifestyle!!! I'd rather lose an eye than quit my job, but it's both eyes that are failing.
There is a procedure that is used in Canada and Europe called Corneal Cross Linking that could help harden my corneas and give me more years, but it's not approved in the US yet.  Therefore, insurance won't cover it and the cost is inflated due to being an 'off-label' procedure.  
I've just payed off the health care costs of last year and was poised to start investing in my retirement again.   Sometimes life is not a joke, sometimes it's a real bitch.
To add further insult to my day, Dax accidentally bit me today.

I must have really pissed someone important off in my former life, this is RIDICULOUS!
FYI, I've already cried my eyes out today, I'm done.  I'm putting the gloves back on and getting back in the ring.  Round 7 and I'm coming out swinging.  Like my soulmate told me: You're a Fighter.  Damn straight I am.